Island Health urges hepatitis A vaccine for Nanaimo Superstore shoppers

NANAIMO – Island Health issued a health alert for shoppers who purchased raw produce or unwrapped food in the last two weeks.

Shoppers who ate raw produce or unwrapped food from the Nanaimo Superstore over the last two weeks are being urged by Island Health to get a hepatitis A vaccine.

A public health alert was issued by the health authority today, urging people to get immunized after a Nanaimo Superstore cashier tested positive for hepatitis A.

Patrons are being asked to get vaccinated if they bought raw produce or unwrapped food that wasn’t further cooked from the grocery retailer during the late afternoon and evenings of Feb. 25-27, all day March 1, or the evening of March 4.

Those who used the self-checkout are not considered to be at risk and the alert doesn’t apply to food products from any other Superstore outlet.

“We don’t see many cases of hepatitis A on the Island and even fewer where the person works in a job with the potential to expose large numbers of people like this,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health’s medical health officer for central Vancouver Island. “Both the individual and the Superstore facility have been cooperating fully to make sure the public is protected and we are grateful for their support.”

A drop-in immunization clinic for Nanaimo Superstore employees and eligible members of the public will take place on Saturday (March 7) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Beban Park Social Centre. Additional immunization clinics will be held at the Nanaimo Superstore on Sunday (March 8) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Monday (March 9) from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Individuals who live outside of the Nanaimo area eligible for a vaccine should attend a Nanaimo clinic or contact their local public health unit to arrange immunization.

There is a small risk that individuals who consumed raw produce or other unwrapped foods purchased late afternoon or evening of Feb. 5, 8, 12, 15, or 18 this year could have been exposed to hepatitis A but a vaccination is not being provided to those who bought food over those dates, according to Island Health, who says the time period for effective prevention has passed.

Hepatitis A is a virus that affects the liver and can spread through close personal contact, or contaminated food that has been handled by an infected person. Symptoms for the disease include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, followed a few days later by dark-coloured urine, light-coloured stools and jaundice. Anyone who develops these symptoms should stay home from school, work, daycare or other activities and avoid preparing food for others, as well as contact a health care professional by calling 811.

Any food purchased over the dates in the alert should be disposed of immediately and not consumed or returned to the Superstore.

Island Health says the public can be assured it’s safe to now purchase and consume food from the Nanaimo Superstore location.

For more information, including additional immunization clinics, please visit www.viha.ca/mho/disease/hepA.htm.

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